Updated: Jul 3, 2020
During this ongoing lockdown, we are all finding a little extra time to relax and revel in our unproductivity. I’ve been using the time to binge-watch my favourite show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, on Netflix. This two-part article (part two here) will be looking at one episode of It’s Always Sunny and focussing on its take on the American attitudes towards social class.
For those of you who don’t know, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a comedy about 5 friends (Mac, Charlie, Dennis, Dee & Frank) who own a bar in Philadelphia. Each episode is more or less self-contained and it is known for being very, very ‘close to the line’ in its sense of humour.
The episode in question is Series 6, Episode 5, Mac & Charlie: White Trash. As you can see, the title itself pulls on a term used to describe working-class, white Americans – usually found in rural areas of the US.
The episode begins with the two central characters, Mac and Charlie, attempting to get into an exclusive pool on a sweltering hot day, only to be refused entry by one of the attendants for not being members of the private pool – of which its membership, they’re told, is currently “at capacity”. As they walk away chugging beer and throwing their empty cans to the floor, they claim how unfair it is that they now have to attend the public pool.
Here, Mac explains to Charlie that “they’ll always be at capacity for us” and that they’re telling them they’re lower class. Watching the scheme, the costumes clearly outline this. The attendants are all in clean, white polo shirts, while Mac and Charlie wear brown and grey sleeveless shirts, with their tattoos showing.
Charlie then replies by saying that he can’t argue with the fact that they’re lower class, because they clearly are. Though, they refuse to go to the public pool because “the people there are gross” – obviously alluding to the fact that they’re lower class too.
The next scene begins with Mac and Charlie breaking into an abandoned lot with an empty swimming pool, all surrounded by garbage and disused furniture. They begin reminiscing over how the pool was for “street guys” like themselves – refusing to colour their view of themselves with any sort of class terminology.
Mac begins saying that the pool was closed because of a pattern of classist discrimination, before Charlie chimes in by reminding him it actually closed because a kid drowned there. Nevertheless, they embrace their lower-class lifestyle by way of deciding to fix up their lower-class pool.
Following the titles, Mac and Charlie are attempting to get investment for their new pool from Frank, the show’s resident millionaire who lives a life of squalor. Upon their immediate rejection from Frank, Dee & Dennis, who are brother & sister and the children of Frank, begin to mock Mac and Charlie, believing they’re high class and by virtue of their class status, would waltz right into the exclusive pool.
Here, Mac tells Dennis they live in the same apartment and therefore belong to the same class. Dennis retorts by saying that you’re born into your class, that it’s about upbringing and pedigree, not current situation.
This assessment of class is certainly valid, but it is by no means incontestable. Class can be identified in a number of ways – though I would always argue that current circumstance has a major part to play in it.
Hilariously, the only member of the group who, in Dennis’ understanding of class, would be high class, proclaims “I don’t give a rat’s ass about class. I live on the fringe; fringe class”.
Here, the episode splits into two plotlines, Dennis and Dee’s high-class story and Mac and Charlie’s ‘white trash’ story.
Part-two of this look at class in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will be uploaded tomorrow. Stay safe, stay indoors and kill some time by watching the show on Netflix before part-two tomorrow!